Collared Tsavo Elephants to Help Reduce Conflict and Secure Migratory Corridors

Monday, March 14, 2011
Tsavo, Kenya
In an ambitious exercise starting tomorrow, eight elephants in Tsavo East National Park will be collared using GPS technology. The collared elephants, both male and female, will assist in the mapping out of migratory routes and corridors in the Park and its buffer zones within the larger ecosystem. This will enable the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to effectively design intervention measures for security operations and human-elephant conflict mitigation

The elephants will be collared by research scientists from KWS and the International Fund for Animal welfare (IFAW www.ifaw.org). IFAW has provided the collars, fuel for aircraft and an on-site technical team.

Located in different parts of the 13,747 square kilometres Park, the collared elephants’ movement will be closely monitored using GPS technology for close to 20 months, as long as they retain the collars. The last collaring in Tsavo East was done in 1972 using conventional collars that required manual tracking with radio transmitters.

Commenting on the exercise, the IFAW President and CEO Fred O’Regan reiterated the importance of elephant management and conservation. “The cost of losing elephants and other wildlife and their habitats is more costly than securing them.

“IFAW recognises that Tsavo is a major lifeline for elephants and Kenya as a whole. It is therefore vital for KWS and ourselves to know which migratory areas are most critical for elephant survival so as to secure those areas, as well as reduce conflict incidences with humans,” he added.

The Tsavo ecosystem is critical for elephant conservation as it is home to the largest population of elephants and covers approximately four per cent of Kenya’s landmass. A recent aerial census conducted last month established 12,572 elephants, an increase from 11,696 in 2008.

The fluctuation of Tsavo’s elephant populations over the decades has had significant impacts on the ecology of the ecosystem. In 1967, the ecosystem had some 35,000 elephants while about 5,400 individuals were left in 1988. Heavy armed poaching and severe drought were responsible for this rapid decline. However since 1990s, concerted efforts by KWS and other conservation partners have seen elephant populations steadily increase to the current status.

Common challenges facing Tsavo’s management are poaching for ivory, human encroachment and habitat destruction, human-elephant conflict, livestock incursions into the Parks, and the adverse and emergent effects of climate change such as severe droughts.  

Since 2005, IFAW has been partnering with KWS in Tsavo to enhance management operations in anti-poaching and law enforcement efforts, human-wildlife conflict mitigation and resolution, research, park infrastructural support, community conservation initiatives and education.

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